Entry Number Seven: More of the same, and then for something a bit different.
Not a bad morning so far. I've done some piano practice, and then moved on for some writing. All background material for my attempt at writing a coherent second draft of a novel. Still a way to go before I have all the material I need, but one step at a time! That goes for diabetes as well. I'm making some adjustments with that at the moment, but I'll discuss that once I get through the rest of my history with the condition. We're into more recent history now. Moving through 2012 and onwards. Exciting stuff!
So 2012 was a big year for me. In March I had my five year anniversary with my girlfriend. We went to Venice. When we got back, we had to go to the trouble of updating our relationship status on Facebook from 'In a relationship' to 'engaged'. (Did I really just suggest that an engagement is not official until Facebook knows about it? Dear god, there's really no hope for my generation, is there?). I was still in denial about my diabetes, but I was having trouble staying there. I started looking to the future as we started planning our wedding. When I was in my second year at university, my bike had broken and I had never bothered to replace or fix it. I decided to put my problems with my control down to lack of exercise. I thought about trying to reduce my food intake, but I was always starving. I figured that if I got out and exercised, I could still eat the same diet, but reduce my insulin requirements and maybe have a few less hypos. I was not overweight, but I was unfit. I am 5'11" and at the time I weighed just under 13 stone. I was towards the top of my 'healthy' weight range. So over a few months I saved up some money and got a bike. It was a nice bike. It still is for that matter. Hydraulic disk brakes, an awesome set of panniers, and plenty in the way of bike locks. (Not so many you couldn't shake a stick at them. I believe that no matter the number of something, if you have a stick at hand, you can shake it at them). I remember buying it on the morning of the opening ceremony of the olympics. I had to wait a few days while the bike shop got it delivered and all set up, but finally I got to go and pick it up. (A quick plug, if you want amazing service and a brilliant bike, go to Cadence Bike shop in Bath. They're just fantastic there).
I was still working full time in retail at this point. 90-5.30 five days a week. This meant I could not get out and cycle during the day most of the time. Therefore, I decided I would be super dedicated. There are some great cycle paths around Bath, you can get to Bristol down a 15 mile cycle path, or go down along the Canal towpath. Go far enough that way and you'd eventually reach Reading. The first day I had my bike, I got up at 6am and went for a ride. I learned two things. Firstly, the world is a beautiful place on an early summer morning. Secondly, I was really unfit! I was amazed how much I ached after that first ride. But I enjoyed it nonetheless. I decided I would make 6am rides my thing, at least 4 days a week. And I stuck to that. The weird thing was, I found that my energy levels soared. I was happier and more active than I had been in years. Over about 8 months I went down to around 11.5 stone, which I was pleased with.
Of course, there was a fly in the ointment. You guessed it; my diabetes. I thought it was amazing that I didn't hypo during my rides. At this point I had never heard of the dawn phenomenon. I would get up and test my blood sugars, have a bowl of cheerios, take my insulin and go for a ride. Occasionally I would test when I got back. My blood sugars would tend to be in the 12-14 range. I thought 'That's great! you're down from the 20's nowadays, and the exercise will bring things down in due course.' On some level, I thought that doing the exercise was making me invincible. I felt fantastic, and I could eat whatever I wanted. Fruit pastilles disappeared faster than ever, my blood sugars continued to be all over the place. I reckoned they would settle down in due course.
Then 2013 came along. I was so excited. I was fit and in my opinion, healthy. I was due to get married in May. I absolutely hated my retail job, and I was trying to take measures to escape it. I took on my first piano pupil in January 2013. I reckoned if I could build up a decent client base, I could leave my job, and work on being purely self employed. I knew how to do my self assessment tax return, as I had been filling them out since I started accompanying a choir in 2010. Then, my world was turned on its head. I went for my annual diabetic retinal scan. It had always come back completely clear. This was one of the things that allowed me to think I was doing just fine. This time the results came back, and the wording was different. It said that 'mild diabetic changes' had been discovered. I remember standing in the living room, reading those words over and over. I knew what they meant; retinopathy had found me. I tried to reassure myself that everything was fine. I went onto the internet and looked around. It was then that I came across this forum. I read about people in similar situations, and tried to calm down. But the message was clear. Even though my sight was fine, even though plenty of people never progress beyond background retinopathy, my control was nowhere near good enough.
I didn't see that I had been walking this path all along. I told myself that I was trying to change, and that this was all unfair. The sensible thing would have been to discuss all of this with my wife. Instead, I walked around with crushing guilt. I thought 'i won't tell her anything yet, we can have the wedding first.' And I pushed it to the back of my mind, quite successfully. Despite my worry, we had the most wonderful wedding day. I will always remember that with nothing but joy. We went on honeymoon to Dublin, and then spent a few days in Torquay. I was still having a lot of hypos, but my god I was trying now. The letter after my eye scan made me take note. I was testing religiously, and had plenty of glucose on hand to make sure I didn't ruin our time away. I started reading nutrition information on packets, and tried to match my insulin to my carbohydrate intake. The thing was, i wasn't very successful at this.
After we got back from honeymoon, a lot of things changed. In August 2013, I left my retail job at last. I started accompanying a second choir, and gradually started building up my students. However, I had a lot of free time on my hands. When I was unemployed, I lost all sense of routine. This happened again. I would go to bed at 5am, get up at 11am, or sometimes be in bed by 9.30 pm, and get up at 5am. I tried to run from my diabetes. Well, cycle away from it. Without a routine, and with sporadic exercise, I lost anything resembling control. The hypos came thick and fast. So did the highs. What was frustrating was I felt I was genuinely trying now, and getting nowhere. I did the worst thing that I could possibly do; I took this frustration out on my wife. She was so worried about me. Whenever I went low, she had to pick up the pieces. She was working a full time admin job, and in effect she was supporting me financially. I was only bringing in small amounts while I established my business. On top of that, she had to worry about all of the hypos. And I would. not. talk about them. In my view, I was an expert in diabetes. I had been diabetic for over 20 years, I knew everything by then! Who was she, to come in and tell me that my control wasn't good enough. A word about my wife; She doesn't lose her temper. She is the single sweetest and most kindhearted person I have ever met. What I was doing to her was awful. She knew there was a serious problem. I knew it too. But I wouldn't discuss it. I decided I was being kind. I was not a violent person, and I was shielding her from everything I was going through. In reality, I was just hiding my problems in plain sight, and she could see them in all their glory. I still hadn't mentioned my worries about my eyes. I was a coward.
Finally, something happened which changed my attitude. I woke up around 3am in November 2013, with sweat pouring off of me. I stumbled to kitchen and with sustained effort, managed to remember how to test. I was 1.8. I just managed to get a few fruit pastilles in my mouth before i collapsed. I remember knowing I was on the floor in the kitchen, and not being able to move. My eyes clouded over and I couldn't see. My heart pounded in my chest at a rate that I had not felt before. I was probably lucky not to have a heart attack. Gradually, the sugar I had consumed kicked in, and i regained control over my body. I ate some more, and then I went to the living room. I sat down, and I sobbed. I cried uncontrollably, and at the same time I laughed inwardly at myself. I finally realised. I was a joke. I hid from my diabetes, and it found me every time. It was in the driving seat, and I had handed it the keys. I made a firm promise then. I would talk to my wife. I would tell her everything, about my terror, and I would apologise. I would get up right then, wake her up, and say sorry for everything I had done to her. i went into the bedroom and turned on the light. Looking down at her, she was still asleep. She looked so peaceful, so serene. I couldn't bring myself to wake her, and shatter her world right then. I left the room again. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I stared into my own eyes and said out loud 'Tomorrow, you will talk to the love of your life. You will let her in, or you are nothing.' I clenched my teeth. 'Don't be a coward, you're a pathetic mess. Let her in. Let her help you. You've proved you don't give a damn about yourself. Do it for her instead.'
And I did. The next day, for the first time, I admitted to my wife that I had a problem. I told her I hadn't been at all fair to her, and that I wanted to change. In truth, I had put her through hell. She should have spat in my face and screamed at me for all I had done. Instead, she embraced me. She told me not to worry, and that we'd find a way through this. That was the start of a new chapter in my life. Now I wasn't struggling alone.
Well, hopefully that's the end of the grim part of my blog! Thanks to anyone that has waded through it. Hopefully the next entry will reward you with some positivity. Read about the measures we took to improve my diabetes, and the events that finally caused me to be in control of my condition.
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